Los Angeles is a place that exists, larger than life, in the imagination of people around the world. With the glitz and glamour of the film industry as its greatest export, it’s no wonder so many people travel to the City of Angels to fulfill their wildest dreams. But the real LA is more than just Hollywood and palm trees. It’s a melting pot of countless neighborhoods, natural features, landmarks, and cultures extending past the porous limits of the city itself. Simply put, Los Angeles is massive.
“Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city.” - Dorothy Parker
Venice Sign, Venice Beach, California
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California
Looking for a taste of beach life? Head to Santa Monica, where the amusement park at the Santa Monica Pier
is a staple of the LA experience. Get weird on the boardwalk at nearby Venice Beach
, a prime spot for people watching the eccentric and bohemian: the skateboarders, the bodybuilders of Muscle Beach, the street performers. Venice is home to the famous Abbot Kinney Boulevard
, a charming collection of storefronts occupying what was once a strip of rundown beach cottages.
Venice Beach, California
On the Eastside of Los Angeles bordering the downtown area, you’ll find the trendiest neighborhoods. Sunset Junction in Silver Lake is a walkable shopping district featuring the famous Intelligentsia
coffee. Catch a live show at Echo Park’s The Echo
, the premier concert venue for all things indie. Head over to Los Feliz to eat at The Dresden
, a 1950s-era steakhouse featured in the essential LA film, Swingers. Top it all off with a drink at the Craft Beer Cellar
in Eagle Rock, an emporium filled with a massive selection of local craft brews and imports.
See the Stars
Hollywood Boulevard is a Los Angeles staple. Step over to show business history at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, surrounded by costumed street performers dressed as Marvel superheroes and old Hollywood icons. See more celebrities at the Madame Tussauds Hollywood, or the footprints at the TCL Chinese Theatre. You can catch a movie from the seats of the Dolby Theatre, one of the most technologically advanced theaters in the world, where the Academy Awards is held every year. Across the street is where Jimmy Kimmel Live! is filmed. For Disney fans, the El Capitan Theatre shows old Disney movies and features exhibits about the making of these classics.
Not many know that Los Angeles is a haven for exquisite works of Art-Deco architecture. Art-Deco is a school of art dating back to 1920s-era France, distinguished by an emphasis on luxury, bold lines, and optimism. You can’t help but be inspired by the striking ornamentation of the turquoise and gold Eastern Columbia Building. The Los Angeles Central Public Library stands like an ancient palace, with influences from the Byzantine and Egyptian empires. The auditorium of the Pantages Theater is adorned with gold, silver, and bronze latticework complementing its big-budget productions.
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, California
The most famous Art-Deco building in Los Angeles is the iconic Griffith Observatory
. Sitting on a hill overlooking the city, the planetarium features ancient Greek influences made to evoke the grandness of the universe. It’s no wonder its founder, Griffith J. Griffith said, “If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world!”
Urban Light Installation, Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, California
Looking for another glimpse into eternity? Visit the Infinity Mirror Rooms
in Downtown LA’s The Broad
museum. Designed by artist Yayoi Kusama, the Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away is completely covered with mirrors and dozens of LED lights, evoking the vastness of space and the rich inner world of every person who steps into the room. Also downtown is the Los Angeles Museum of Art or LACMA
. The largest museum in the western United States, LACMA is home to a massive collection of contemporary art, as well as ancient art from Latin America, Asia, and the Islamic world. Outside is the famous Urban Light installation
, the most popular photo-op for your next profile pic.
Take a Hike
There are hiking trails in nearly every part of Los Angeles, with Runyon Canyon
in the Hollywood Hills among the most popular. This dog-friendly park features a trail up to the Hollywood Sign
. The aforementioned Griffith Observatory bookends the trails of Griffith Park
, which offer stunning views of the city. If you’re inclined to venture farther, take a drive out to Joshua Tree National Park
, a gorgeous desert landscape teeming with wildlife. Joshua Tree is at its most breathtaking at night under the stars, where camping in the park becomes an almost spiritual experience.
Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is known for its diversity, with a multitude of ethnic communities to experience. Koreatown
is the prime spot for the best Korean culture and nightlife. Get a cheap acupuncture treatment at Dongguk University
, or go for a spa day at Wi Spa
. Try the famous Kogi food truck
from Koreatown native Roy Choi, which features the Korean BBQ tacos that kicked off the food truck craze back in 2008.
Also within the boundaries of Koreatown is a strip of storefronts known as Little Bangladesh. In just four blocks, the Bangladeshi restaurants feature basmati rice dishes and fish curries hotter than traditional Indian curries.
Over in East Hollywood is the vibrant Little Armenia, where spots like Sasoun Bakery
give you a taste of traditional family cuisine, like the cheese boyreg. In Glendale is another Armenian community where you’ll find Zankou Chicken
, the best rotisserie chicken joint in town.
Little Tokyo Marketplace, Downtown Los Angeles, California
In Downtown LA’s Little Tokyo
, head to Nijiya Market
to pick up green tea KitKat, bento boxes, and gourmet Japanese groceries. MAX Karaoke Studio
has private rooms for rent, with thousands of songs to sing in over four languages. Japanese Village Plaza
is a mall lined with cherry blossoms, street food, and wood-accented buildings inspired by the rural villages of Japan.
Of course, LA is heavily influenced by Mexican culture. To learn about the roots of the vibrant Los Angelino culture in Los Angeles, head to La Plaza de Culture y Artes, whose top floor features the Calle Principal exhibit, a recreation of a typical main street from a 1920s Hispanic neighborhood. The colorful Mexican marketplace Olvera Street is a brick-lined street full of craft shops and historic buildings, hosting Cinco de Mayo, Dia de Los Muertos, and Fiestas Patrias events throughout the year.